Like the nearby pictured green leaf stubbornly standing in a swirl of dirty water, a man of courage and conviction changed the course of history at 4 am on February 24, 1807.
On that early morning, the English House of Commons abolished the slave trade by an overwhelming majority of 283 to 16.
This occurred because William Wilberforce had argued for two decades against a government which had strongly resisted his efforts to end the evilest of enterprises.
“Any change in the institution of slavery,” wrote historian Kevin Belmonte in his book Hero for Humanity, would “wreck the national economy and the British way of life.”
Wilberforce had heard many such pontifications over the years from slavery’s profiteers, but he had also heard the cries of his fellow human beings whose lives were destroyed in the name and swirl of profit.
While the British government filled its coffers, Wilberforce counted the coffins.
What is it that leads such individuals like Wilberforce to sacrifice much in the service of a great cause, to stand against the tide of popular opinion and belief and to ceaselessly argue for those who cannot?
Fascinated by such men and women of unparalleled and uncompromising courage, Gordon Brown wrote the book Courage. In it he portrays the few for whom “social disapproval, danger, physical pain, and even the risk of death mattered far less to them that personal belief and moral purpose.”
In the end, Brown concluded, their lives were “an expression of both strength of character and strength of belief.”
Emanating from deep within the hearts and minds of individuals like Wilberforce who have withstood the swirl of immorality and kept others from being swept away.
They refuse to surrender to what’s easy or convenient or economically best; they shun social media ratings, opinion polls and interviews.
They will not go down the drain of popularity.
Moments after the tally, Wilberforce’s fellow members rose to the feet and loudly cheered as he bowed his head and quietly wept.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.